Book Review: Rise of the Elgen

Rise of the Elgen
Michael Vey #2
by Richard Paul Evans

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA sci-fi adventure

Michael Vey isn’t exactly an ordinary kid. For one thing, he has Tourette syndrome. For another, he produces electricity like a taser. And he’s not the only one with electric abilities. Together with some of the other teens like him, and some without powers, Michael sets out to rescue his mom from Dr. Hatch and the Elgen.

I both enjoyed and was annoyed by this book. For plot and intrigue, I give it a thumbs up. For characterization and writing style, I give it a thumbs down. The story itself kept me interested, and I sped through it. Evans has some interesting ideas involving the electric powers and how they can be used by both sides (though there are some aspects I’m not sure are completely thought out—for example, if Zeus’s electric powers are sapped, wouldn’t water not affect him so much? How does Ian’s echolocation allow him to read printed text?).

However, the group of hero teens generally fall into two categories—the boys are strong, alpha males who just want to flirt and smash. The girls are silly creatures that think fluffy animals are cute (except for the rats). The only exceptions to these stereotypes are Michael himself and his best friend Ostin. And then there’s the bad guy, who makes me feel like Evans did a study in how to do one better on the evils of Nazi Germany. The things they do are just over the top evil, it’s disturbing. As for the writing, I hate to say it, but it made me feel like I was reading my own early attempts at writing as a 12-year-old. I rolled my eyes several times at the immaturity. I know this is written for a younger audience, but that doesn’t mean it has to be quite so silly.

In the end, though I wrote down several notes of things that bothered me, I look back and mostly see an exciting, fast-paced book (which might be interesting, since I’ve read several reviews that say this book was slower than the first). While the downsides are the kind of thing that I don’t expect to get any better in future books, as long as the good parts are still there, I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

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Book Review: The Maze of Bones

The Maze of Bones
The 39 Clues #1
by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s mystery, adventure

When Amy and Dan’s grandmother dies, her will reading sets off a hunt for treasure that no one in the vast, powerful Cahill family can fully comprehend. The vague prize will make the finder or finder’s team the most powerful members of the Cahill family, which has had some pretty powerful members in the past. Amy and Dan have nothing to lose as they do their best to outsmart and outrace the wealthier, older, and deadlier members of their families.

This book reminded me a lot of some other series I’ve read recently—unrealistic, over-the-top action, characters that know everything they need to know to progress, and one can never be quite sure who to trust. And yet, I enjoyed it more than I feel like I should have. By the time I got to the end, I was invested. I don’t normally enjoy a book where you can’t trust anyone, because characters are betraying each other left and right, but I still couldn’t help but start to trust a couple of the potentially treacherous side characters by the end. And now I want badly to know how it will turn out with those characters. I also can’t help but want to know what the big prize is, even though I suspect it will either be ridiculous or a letdown.

I’ve heard of this series for a long time and considered reading the books years ago, but never have until now. I wonder if I might not have been ready for the style and tone of the book until now, since I’ve read a few other series with the same kind of wildly unlikely storylines—at least one of which I liked and one of which I really didn’t. Now, I’m more able to let some of the things that might have bothered me in the past go and enjoy the story for what it is. I’m not sure how I’ll like the change of authors throughout the series, but I’m definitely going to keep going.

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Book Review: Addie McCormick and the Mystery of the Missing Scrapbook

Addie McCormick and the Mystery of the Missing Scrapbook
Addie McCormick Adventures #2
by Leanne Lucas

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian mystery, adventure

When Addie and Nick meet elderly Miss T’s new live-in companion Amy, a Japanese-American whose family spent time in an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they begin to uncover a secret that Amy wants to keep hidden, but someone else is out to expose.

The first book in the series was good, but this one was on a different level. These aren’t simple, predictable kids’ mysteries. I really appreciated the little bit of history about how Japanese-Americans were treated in America during WWII, as well as a touch on Japanese culture. This book introduces a few new kid characters, one of which I particularly liked. While I don’t know how realistic it is for a pre-teen kid to be as self-assured as Brian is, I suppose given the right circumstances, it would be possible. And since he was my favorite, after all, it clearly didn’t bother me. The conclusion was satisfying, and in the end, I liked this one more than the previous. I’m just sad that I won’t be able to read the rest of the series (except #7), because they’re hard to find. Still, if you do have the chance to read this book or procure it for a 10-12-year-old child, I recommend it.

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Book Review: Addie McCormick and the Stranger in the Attic

Addie McCormick and the Stranger in the Attic
Addie McCormick Adventures #1
by Leanne Lucas

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian mystery, adventure

When Addie sets out to liven up her summer, she meets a new neighbor and an old neighbor and stumbles onto a mystery.

Overall, this is a simple adventure story with a somewhat unique resolution. Throughout the story, though, there’s the addition of Addie, whose father was once a preacher and has recently started working at a local Christian radio station, trying to figure out how to tell her new friends about the God that her parents have helped her to know, without pushing those friends away. This conundrum is near and dear to my heart, because my own daughter has struggled with this in the past as well. And Addie living out in the country, far from her friends, brings back memories of my own childhood.

I read a few of the books in this series when I was a kid and still own #7 in the series. Reading this book again after all these years has made me wonder if this series might have provided some inspiration for my own attempts at writing when I was around 10-12 years old. I can’t say for certain, but one story I started and never finished bears some remarkable similarities to this book (not that I was plagiarizing, mind you). All of these connections I have to the story may have led me to be a bit more biased than normal, but I enjoyed this quick read. Though these books may not be easy to find anymore, if you do have the chance to read this book or procure it for a 10-12-year-old child, I recommend it.

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Book Review: The Prisoner of Cell 25

The Prisoner of Cell 25
Michael Vey #1
by Richard Paul Evans

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA sci-fi adventure

Michael Vey isn’t exactly an ordinary kid. For one thing, he has Tourette syndrome. For another, he produces electricity like a taser. In the space of a few days, Michael discovers that he’s not the only one with powers and that there are sinister forces that are looking for him. When his mom is kidnapped, Michael has to go on the offensive while figuring out what his powers can do.

I enjoyed this story overall. The writing was nothing special, but the story is interesting. I think I liked Michael’s powerless friend, Ostin, most. I kept imagining him as Ned from the more recent Spider-Man movies. Hatch is a sufficiently interesting bad guy, who I assume majored in psychology, because he really knows how to manipulate people. Though I do think he makes some obvious errors when trying to break one of the characters, so that was a little off-putting. It might just show how completely deranged he is though.

For as atypical as Michael is supposed to be, he sure seems to bring a lot of tropes and cliches to the book. For example, he has a crush on the cheerleader and can’t talk right around her. He’s also scrawny and victim to some intense bullying, yet is able to understand their motivation super quickly and easily, which is definitely not likely to happen in a situation like this. But while most of the characters don’t get a lot of development and there’s an amazing coincidence involving two kids with powers that happen to go to the same school that is never explained, the story overall moves along quickly and kept my attention. The climax may have been a little on the easy side, but I don’t mind that, especially in a book for a younger audience. The story this first book sets up is intriguing, so I’ll definitely be continuing the series.

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Book Review: The Librarians and the Pot of Gold

The Librarians and the Pot of Gold
The Librarians #3
by Greg Cox
read by Therese Plummer

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Fantasy adventure

The Librarians and their guardian are put on the trail of a member of the Serpent Brotherhood, who is trying to track down a pot of gold that went missing in Ireland in the 5th century, right about the time that St. Patrick banished all of the snakes from Ireland. Can they outwit a serpent, a banshee, and some leprechauns to save a life and solve a centuries-old mystery?

Let me start by saying again, as I did for the previous books in the series, that I love The Librarians. I think the show is better than it has any right to be, and a large part of that is due to the great casting. The movies were good as well, but I think the show really took the overall story world to a new level. I’m glad to be able to read these books, though I wish they were a little more clear about where they fit into the series. This one pretty clearly happens after the end of season 3, though beyond that, I can’t say for sure. And while the book does attempt to give some basic understanding of the overall setting and backstory of the Library and the Librarians, I think this book is best read by someone who has seen at least the TV show. Knowledge of the movies isn’t really necessary for this book.

Now to the story itself. I liked that the Librarians mostly worked together in this book; the way they play off each other is a big part of why the show is so good. I didn’t care for the first chunk of the book that dealt with the end of an ongoing case. While that kind of thing is common in an episodic format like this, it seemed to drag on way too long. I just wanted to get onto the main story. Something I noticed more in this book is that the characters aren’t coming through all that well. I think the reason I thought they were before was simply because I’d watched the show recently and could apply the recent memories of their personalities to the book. But the further I get from watching the show, the more I realize that, absent of knowledge of the show, the characters are fairly 2-dimensional. Add to that the way that the audiobook narrator tends to make everyone sound like they’re almost always scared or unhappy in some way, and it just wasn’t a very enjoyable read. In the end, the next time I go back through the Librarians movies and series, I’ll probably read through these books again along the way; however, I’ll most likely read them myself, instead of listening to the audiobooks. Though the books aren’t as good as the show overall, I do think that fans of the show who are sad it’s over might enjoy having the extra “episodes” from these books.

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Book Review: The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase

The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase
The Librarians #2
by Greg Cox
read by Therese Plummer

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Fantasy adventure

When the Mother Goose Treaty of 1918 appears to have been broken, nursery rhymes come to life, and they’re anything but whimsical. The Librarians and their guardian are sent in different directions to investigate these nursery rhymes, while Flynn Carson is nowhere to be found.

Let me start by saying again, as I did for the previous book in the series, that I love The Librarians. I think the show is better than it has any right to be, and a large part of that is due to the great casting. The movies were good as well, but I think the show really took the overall story world to a new level. I’m glad to be able to read these books, though it’s frustrating to me that they’re so vague about where they fit in the series. This one seems to take place after season 3, but while there are plenty of references to Prospero (and a spoiler for the end of season 2) and definitely to Dulaque (from season 1), there aren’t any references to Apep from season 3. Plus, a major development for Cassandra that took place at the end of season 3 definitely doesn’t come into play in this book, so it seems it can’t have happened. Maybe it’s just supposed to be vague, but I would have preferred to be able to read it at the right time while watching the show. And while the book does attempt to give some basic understanding of the overall setting and backstory of the Library and the Librarians, I think this book is best read by someone who has seen at least the TV show. Knowledge of the movies may not be necessary.

Now to the story itself. Overall it was decent. I didn’t mind the Librarians being separated as much as others did, partly because they still each had a counterpart of sorts to work with. I thought some of the story was weak, for example the nursery rhyme connection to the man in Florida was a major stretch, and for a while, I kept expecting someone to say they were wrong about which nursery rhyme they’d associated it with. The stakes were as high as they get, and there was a bit of a twist that I only figured out a moment before Baird did. In the end, there things I liked more about it than the previous book, and things I like less about it. This book had all the campy fun of the show, and I like that the characters’ personalities come through on the page like they do on the small screen. I still don’t care for the narrator’s breathy tendencies, and if I do re-read this series in the future, I’ll probably skip the audiobooks. Still, I’m enjoying this extension of the show.

Fact check: Jenkins explains that “Mother Goose” is more of a title, passed down through generations, the bearer of which is meant to guard the spells that end up being written down and distributed as nursery rhymes. Elizabeth Goose was her generation’s Mother Goose, and a real-life person, however her maiden name was Elizabeth Foster, and she married the Goose name, so it’s weird she was coincidentally that generation’s Mother Goose (and that this isn’t brought up in the book). Also, Jenkins says that “tourists in Boston flock to what’s claimed to be the grave of the ‘real’ Mother Goose, blithely unaware that she was actually only one in a long line of Mother Gooses, carrying on an ancient tradition.” But the grave in Boston that has become a tourist attraction is actually the grave of MARY Goose, unrelated to the woman whose rhymes prompted the publishing. Mary Goose was actually the first, late wife of Elizabeth’s husband.

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Book Review: Quest for the King’s Crown

Quest for the King’s Crown
Last Chance Detectives #6/7*
by Robert Vernon

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian mystery, adventure

Mysterious strangers and very old skeletons launch the Last Chance Detectives into another case, this time searching for treasure!

This series takes place in the mid-90s, though I sometimes think the author takes some liberty with the technology available at the time. Still, this story is fun, with some twists and turns that keep it interesting. There are some things that happen that I feel are unlikely enough to lower the rating by a star, because while kids may not pick up on those issues, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a story with a tighter plot. I also think the kids themselves and their personalities take a bit of a backseat to the grander plot, but overall, it’s a good addition to the series. I was leery of new books being written after so long, but now I’m glad to be able to read more about these young detectives from the 90s and really hope the author is planning more, especially considering the tiny crumb we’re given about Mike’s missing dad in this book.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tyndale House Publishers/Focus on the Family for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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Publication date: November 8, 2022
*There were 3 books in the series originally, back in the 90s, and then a prequel came out in 2004. For some reason, when the first more recent book was published in 2021, the first one was labeled as book #5 in the series, I guess making the prequel the new #1 and pushing the rest a book later. But the early ones are still labeled as 1-3 in many places, so now it’s just kind of a mess…

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Book Review: Revenge of the Phantom Hot Rod

Revenge of the Phantom Hot Rod
Last Chance Detectives #5/6*
by Robert Vernon

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian mystery, adventure

When a car from the past with a ghostly driver begins to terrorize motorists near Ambrosia, the Last Chance Detectives are on the case.

Though this series started in the 90s, this book was written and published this year (2022). It still takes place in the mid-90s, which does tend to limit what the reader might suspect is happening, especially given the genre of the series. However, the target audience (8-12 year olds) would probably not try to solve the mystery while reading and instead simply enjoy the excitement and suspense. And even though I found myself unable to stop speculating on the technique used by the “bad guy,” I did still really enjoy the story. The descriptions of the driver were sufficiently mysterious and even a little creepy, and the way the Last Chance Detectives worked to solve it was smart and interesting.

I like that this series doesn’t generally follow the modern trend for kids books to have the kids breaking rules, ignoring adults, and generally being disrespectful as they protagonize their way through a story (no, that’s not a word, but I like it). Mike, Ben, Spence, and Winnie are just as curious and determined as I remember them being in the LCD movie I grew up watching (The Mystery Lights of Navajo Mesa). And even better, Winnie gets a little more depth to her character in this book (was she shown to be artistic before? If so, I don’t recall). The feud between her and Ben was amusing, and even realistic in the way it began to be less amusing to their friends as it went on and got in the way of the investigation. The culmination of that was a serious heart-stopper for me, and I’m still not sure how I feel about the way the author went with that in the end. Maybe it wouldn’t have affected me so much if the overall series wasn’t so ingrained in my childhood—though I never read any of the books back then and only watched the one movie, I watched it so many times that when I read the respective book for the first time recently, I read many of the lines in the same inflection as the actors said them in the movie.

Overall, this was a great addition to the series. I was leery of new books being written after so long, but now I’m glad to be able to read more about these young detectives from the 90s and am looking forward to the next one.

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*There were 3 books in the series originally, back in the 90s, and then a prequel came out in 2004. For some reason, when the first more recent book was published in 2021, the first one was labeled as book #5 in the series, I guess making the prequel the new #1 and pushing the rest a book later. But the early ones are still labeled as 1-3 in many places, so now it’s just kind of a mess…

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Book Review: The Ultimate Quest


Treasure Hunters Book #8
by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Children’s adventure

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series, starting with Treasure Hunters.

When the Kidd kids’ parents are kidnapped, it’s up to Bick, Beck, Tommy, and Storm to find the treasure that the kidnappers are after first, so they can save their parents.

I have hung in there for 8 books, but I think this is where I call it. I’ve grown weary of a family of treasure hunters that no longer keeps the treasure (and acts like that’s always been their m.o., even though it wasn’t that way in the early books of the series). Of the oldest son who treats every woman close to his age like an object. Of the sister who remembers everything she ever heard, smelled, or saw going back to when she was 4 years old. Of the twins that fight over stupid things at ridiculous times. Of every single person that the characters meet ultimately betraying them. It’s just…not fun anymore (it wasn’t fun by the third book, really).

In this book in particular, we also have Storm (the super-smart sibling with the “photographic” memory) flirting like Tommy does, and it made me roll my eyes. I also did not care for the “he/she/they” reference to God in a book meant for kids. I really don’t feel comfortable recommending this book or its predecessors to any age group, and I will not be continuing this series, which does appear to have another book being released at some point in the future. However, there are far more positive reviews for this book than negative, so I’m in the minority (I’m used to it). Please do check out other reviews for the book if you’re interested.

Thank you to Netgalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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